What is swing sequence and why is it important?

I often here and read about swing sequence and its importance to producing predictable golf shots and distance but what does it actually mean and why is it important?

In this article I will aim to explain swing sequence and what we can learn about its role in producing predictable shots and how it can contribute to increased distance.

 First of all, it is important to define what is meant by swing sequence. When discussing swing sequence we are describing the sequence segments of the body move in the transition phase of the golf swing from backswing to downswing.

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Similar to throwing-based sports, in golf, ideal segmental sequencing would occur from the proximal to distal segments. In this discussion the most proximal (closest to the centre of the body) segment is the pelvis and the most distal segment is the golf club. Therefore ideal sequencing in the downswing would be pelvis - thorax - club for effective energy transfer from segment to segment. Good proximal to distal sequencing is essential in allowing maximum possible distal (club head) speed.

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With the aid of modern 3D measuring devices, we are now able to measure this sequence to better understand what is happening globally within a swing movement. An example of two players' transition sequences from my Bull3D system can be seen below. The first segment to move in transition is labelled as 1 and the last segment to move labelled as 3. Player 1 has a club head speed of 83 MPH with a 6 iron and Player 2 a 6 iron club head speed of 77 MPH.

Player 1 - Ideal transition sequence - Pelvis 1 - Thorax 2 - Club 3

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Player 2 - transition sequence - Club 1 - Pelvis 2 - Thorax 3

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Peak Order

Understanding the transition order/sequence of segments is important as it shows how energy is moving through the system in the transition phase of the golf swing. When looking to understand speed generation it is also important to know the order in which the segments achieve their peak speed in transition. Like the transitions sequence, the order in which the segments achieve their peak speed is essential in allowing maximum distal (club head) speed and will ideally move from the proximal to distal segment Pelvis 1 - Thorax 2 - Club 3. Player 1 and Player 2's Peak Orders observed on my Bull 3D system can be seen below:

Player 1 - (6 iron club head speed - 83 MPH)

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Player 2 - (6 iron club head speed - 77 MPH)

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Segment lags

In taking a more detailed look at how players produce club head speed we can now also capture the time difference between when the peak speeds occur at each segment, these are known as segment lags. Research has shown that between 25-40ms is the ideal time differential between each segment as this provides sufficient time for the energy to move to the next segment and not too much time that would then result in the energy being retained in the most proximal segment (Mark Bull 2018). Below is an example of Player 2 compared to another player (Player 3) both have good transition sequence and peak order but we see that player 3 has a faster club head speed, partly due to improved segment lags. 

Player 2 - (6 iron club head speed 83 MPH)

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Player 3 - (6 iron club head speed 87 MPH)

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Swing sequence, peak order and segmental lags are very useful information in helping generate a better picture of what is happening in the global swing movement of a player however the question is often what is causing the segments to behave in this manner and therefore the area of focus to improve.

The Bull 3D system is an amazing teaching tool and helps me as a coach understand a player's ability to control segments, co-ordinate movement, understand the task and control posture.

The data that I have shared today is only a very small insight into the information that can be obtained from the Bull 3D system to help learn more about this great game. I look forward to sharing more of the system's capabilities over the coming months and if you have any questions on my observations, please post them to the group. 

How important is a golf ball for performance?

Wedge and Driver ball comparison

In this short article I will look at how a different type of golf ball can effect shot outcome and ultimately performance. I am going to compare two Titleist golf balls, the Pro V1 and the Velocity on two different areas of the game, driving and wedge play. The Pro V1 is Titleist's premium ball costing around £45 per dozen and the Velocity golf ball is Titleist entry level ball costing around £20 per dozen, but what/if any is the difference?

Wedge shots

I chose a distance of 50 yards to hit wedge shots and used my own Vega 54 degree wedge for both shots. I selected the two shots that had the same ball speed and carry distance for a fair comparison. The data collected can bee seen below:

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From the data we can see that the Titleist Pro V1 (PRO V1) golf ball launches lower and spins more than the Titleist Velocity (VEL). The green circles highlight the launch angle and the the orange circles highlight the spin of each of the golf balls. The Velocity launches 4 degrees higher than the Pro V1 and spins around 1000 RPM (revolutions per minute) less. In current conditions with the ground and greens being firm more spin on a wedge can help the golf ball to stop quicker on the green.

Driver shots

For this test I used my own Ping G400 driver and aimed to swing the club at a similar speed and only counted shots that I would consider a good strike. The results can be seen below:

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What can we learn from the data?

Matching the correct ball to your individual needs and swing characteristics is very important in order to maximise performance. When selecting a golf ball we have got to consider both tee shots and shots played from around the green as well as the conditions we are playing in.

The Titleist Velocity is designed to launch the ball high and spin less. From my testing I saw this was more apparent with my wedges than with my driver. However, I have seen improvements to driver distance (ball speed) when recommending golf balls to golfers. The ball that will help maximise performance will depend on individual club head speed and delivery of the club head into impact. The golf ball is something worth considering when looking at performance gains in your game.

Depending on what the individual players requires from the ball I can then fit the ball accordingly - if you have any questions please post them to the group or message me to discuss further.

OLD V NEW - is modern driver technology helping us to improve performance?

There is currently a considerable amount of advertising regarding modern drivers and how effective they are in improving distance and dispersion, thereby resulting in improved performance. I have therefore conducted a number of tests to determine whether these claims are accurate.

To test the manufacturers claims I have compared an old wooden headed driver and a modern titanium driver. I choose to test the iconic wooden headed Ping Eye 2 driver and Ping's latest titanium driver, the G30.

The tests sought to establish how the two different clubs affect a Professionals club head speed (how fast the club head is moving), ball speed (how quickly the ball in coming off of the face), carry distance (the distance the golf ball travels through the air) and grouping (the distance between the most left and the most right shot).

A total of 24 shots were hit, and with the help of the HMT on my GC2 launch monitor I was able to gather accurate data from three parts of the club face, centre, heel and toe strikes.

The test took place in our indoor facility with the same golf ball, a Titleist Pro V1X, being used for all shots. Below are the average results from each club off of the different locations on the face. 

 

What I learnt

Club head speed:

  • -  The club head speed was quicker with the modern Ping G30 driver (111 MPH and 115 MPH) compared to Ping Eye 2 (108 MPH and 110 MPH). The shaft on the Ping G30 driver is longer (45.25") than the Ping Eye 2 driver (43.25"). The graphite shaft is also lighter in the Ping G30 (75 grams) compared to the steel shaft in the Ping Eye 2 (121 grams). The length and weight of the shaft are both factors that could increase/decrease club head speed

  • -  A toe strike produces more club head speed with both drivers than a shot hit out of the centre or heel of the club. When the pro was aiming to hit the golf ball out of the toe of the club his angle of attack into impact changed, the club head was travelling less down. We do know that to optimise the distance with the same club head speed, angle of attack needs to be upward NOT downward into impact, but can angle of attack change club head speed? A discussion for another time maybe?!

    Ball speed:

  • -  The ball speed is quicker off the face of the Ping G30 than the Ping Eye 2 driver. We would expect to see more ball speed as club head speed increases (assuming strike on the face is the same), the G30 producing more club head speed should therefore produce more ball speed off of the face

  • -  the number that most surprised me from the whole test was a ball struck off the toe of the G30 produced a quicker ball speed than a ball struck out of the centre of the club. The club head speed was quicker when the ball was struck out of the toe, but I was really surprised that a ball struck that far out of the toe could still produce that much ball speed. When the Ping Eye 2 was struck off of the toe, even though the club head speed increases the ball speed drops. Modern driver technology is more forgiving on off centre hits

  • -  the ball speed drops when the ball is struck off of the heel of the club head with both of the drivers. A toe strike produces more ball speed than a heel strike 

Carry distance:

- the Ping G30 carried the golf ball further on all parts of the club face than the Ping Eye 2

- the distance gain by the Ping G30 on a centred strike was on average was 22 yards carry. A 20 yard gain in driver distance will lower the score of a 18 handicapper on average by 1.6 strokes per round (Every Shot Counts, Mark Broadie 2014) 

- The distance the golf ball carries drops when the ball is struck off centre (heel or toe) with the Ping Eye 2. Although the carry distance does drop with the Ping G30 when it is struck off of the heel we actually see a gain in carry distance when the ball is struck off of the toe. Modern driver technology is more forgiving on off centre hits 

Grouping:

- I was surprised by the difference in flight between a toe strike with the Ping Eye 2 and the PingG30. They produced two dramatically different ball flights. The Ping Eye 2 finished right of the target and the Ping G30 finished left. Modern drivers are designed to counteract the off centre hit through gear effect. A feature on modern drivers meaning the ball curves back to target (left when struck off of the toe and right when struck on the heel ((for a right handed player)) due to the roll and bulge or curving of the face. This is clearly not as effective on the Ping Eye 2 driver as the ball finishes to the right of target when struck off of the toe 

To summarise

It was my aim to find out if modern technology is helping us to improve performance. Based on my findings and coaching experience I would conclude that, the modern driver produced more club head speed, ball speed, hit the ball further and was overall more accurate. Modern technology in a driver is therefore definitely helping us to improve performance. However, it is very important for a driver to be correctly fitted to an individuals swing tendencies to benefit the modern technology. A modern driver with the incorrect set up/specification for a players swing speed, technique and tenancies could lead to negative performance. To maximise your full driving potential there are also many other factors such as shot selection, pre shot routine, tee position and angle of attack, to name a few, that need to be addressed and understood. Are golfers that use modern driver technology maximising the performance gains that they offer?

If you would like to learn more about how to increase your efficiency, club head speed, accuracy and course strategy with your driver or have any further questions you would like to discuss, please feel free to email me at sam@sampitcairngolf.com or call me on 01732 700771